Lives are local

Colin James sum-up comments to Inspiring Communities conference
Wellington 22 June 2016

You are doers. I am a be-er/talker. You are insiders. I am an outsider. So I should stop now and let you get on with the “messy” business you do, as Nichola Brehaut put it.

But perhaps I should pick up Nicola’s “messy” point. “Messy” is democratic and your disparate actions in response to the people around you are the essence of democracy. Doing things democratically, as you do, may, as Nicola also said, take a little longer but it leads to better outcomes – “hoods” can become “goods”, Stone Soup told us.

read more

Brexit, Trump, sub-zero bonds, China: check the mattress

On Thursday Britain will vote to leave the European Union or not. In November the United States will vote to have Donald Trump as President or not.

Either would send global shockwaves.

A rocky two years would follow a “Brexit” vote as exit terms were negotiated. It would weaken the European Union, with geopolitical implications. There would be trans-Atlantic, European and wider economic impacts.

read more

What’s in a house? The core of a good life

What’s in a house? A lot more than “housing”.

The political noise around “housing” has got very loud. The government looks and sounds less assured as the noise level rises.

John Key has thrown three ministers at it.

Bill English, MP for 26 years, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, is Minister Responsible for the Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZ) which rents “social housing” to the needy.

read more

The future is coming down the track. Will policy cope?

The government is about to bring in a bill to regulate space. Well, not exactly. It is to cover Rocket Lab’s launches of lightweight space satellites from Mahia Peninsula and comparable future innovations.

Rocket Lab’s innovation — backed by New Zealand taxpayers but now registered in the United States where it has deals with a California company aiming to land commercial craft on the moon and with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — is to cater for a new generation of small commercial space craft.

read more

The Greens’ “new paradigm” and Labour’s need

Where did people fit in Thursday’s budget? As a cost. Even Bill English’s vaunted “social investment” is cast as a future cost to be avoided.

That opens space for Labour and the Greens, as they prepare to formalise their cooperation, to reframe the budget process as using people’s taxes to enhance their lives, including by reducing social inequities and building stronger ecosystems.

read more

A “social investment” budget, as billed

The 2016 budget is billed as a “social investment” budget. A whole section is under that title.

After seven years of stringency and more-with-less reprioritising, there is some relaxation of social and other spending — but tagged with an “investment theme” and geared to defined outcomes tested by departments’ chief science advisers.

read more

The budget: the politics of spending v tax cuts

When is a tax cut not a cut? When it just reverses a rise.

As wages rise they take some earners across thresholds into higher marginal income tax rates on their last dollars. Those people pay a higher proportion of their income in tax. It’s called bracket creep or fiscal drag.

If their wage rises have outstripped the price rises of the things they buy they might still feel better off. If not, they feel worse off.

read more

When the cord breaks Colin James on the fourth Labour government

Talk to Christchurch Labour, 19 May 2019

“The moment of conception is a barrier surpassed, birth a boundary crossed. Gunter Grass’s Oskar, the mettlesome hero of The Tin Drum, narrates in real time his troubling passage through the birth canal and his desire, once delivered into the world, to reverse the process. The room is cold. A moth beats against the naked light bulb. But it’s too late to turn back, the midwife has cut the cord.” – Francis Stonor Saunders, “Where on Earth are you?”, London Review of Books, Vol 38 No5, 3 March 2016.

read more

What’s in a budget? The next government?

Labour and the Greens have again in recent weeks been banging their heads against a wall: trying to dislodge John Key from his supra-political perch.

As ever, Key has deflected them by a combination of bland assurances, partial retreats and counterpunching — with collateral damage to innocents, including the Red Cross and Green MP Mojo Mathers.

read more